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Piece of Mind: Cambridge Farmers’ Market is a special place

In this edition of Piece of Mind, Jill Summerhayes shares her love of the market and organizers have handled the pandemic
20210816 Cambridge Farmers Market by Jill Summerhayes

Recently on a beautiful Saturday morning, Cambridge Farmers’ Market was bustling with shoppers eager to choose from an abundance of fresh produce. It is one of my favourite places to visit. When I moved from Toronto to Cambridge 42 years ago I discovered this gem, and most Saturdays since have visited, especially during COVID, a safe outing.

Over the years vendors have come and gone, with many of them aging along with me. They are familiar, smiling faces. As time passes we see their young children helping them out, years later their grandchildren serve us. A valuable lesson for young children to learn about public relations, customer satisfaction, addition and subtraction.

Helping at the market teaches them many lessons. To me being able to support local farmers and their families, buying fresh Ontario fruit and vegetables, chatting with vendors and regular acquaintances, is a special time. 

The city market management staff has done a superb job of organization during the pandemic. Separating indoor and outdoor areas with a limited number of buyers at one time. People line up outside while waiting, masked and socially distanced, for their turn inside. Greeters welcome shoppers with a friendly smile, they offer loaned umbrellas if raining, hand sanitizer and even masks, should you forget yours. It is efficient and friendly.

Every week fresh fish, sea food, meats, cheeses, eggs, bread and baked goods with a wide selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables are available. Jams, honey, apple and peach juice, along with fresh bouquets of flowers, all picked just hours earlier.

Twenty-two years ago Wesley Church began baking apple dumplings as a fundraiser for a new roof. The Apple Corp. has expanded to offer a variety of flavourful pies. The roof is now complete but the repayment is ongoing. Regular marketers are most appreciative for their baking. My grandchildren love their apple crisp, my husband their peach pie, which traditionally he prefers to a cake, for his August birthday.

Most vendors now offer debit rather than cash, buyers are polite and quietly line up treating others with respect. In the winter there were fewer shoppers braving the cold, but everything was done to make it possible to continue with the weekly market.

Early risers find parking more easily and shorter lines, they get the pick of the best but whatever time you show up between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. on a Saturday, you will find good produce. In our own home as we age and eat less, when the harvest is  so invitingly bountiful, it is  easy to overbuy.

Once marketing is done a stop off for coffee at The Grand Cafe to meet friends is next on the agenda. The outdoor patio has been very popular and is part of my tradition of time well spent on a Saturday morning. Being able to carry out this routine for much of the pandemic has been positively beneficial. 

Many of us have had to change routines, we have changed attitudes and preferences since early 2020. We accept that life is precious, some attend social events with gay abandon, others are more cautious, wear masks and limit the number of people they meet. With hindsight, we all have our own ideas of what might have been done better but with little experience of handling massive pandemics, Canada, and Cambridge especially, has done well and we have all learned.  

To me the every day ordinary happenings, my weekly visits to the Cambridge market, having a patio coffee with a friend, all have helped me to cope with the changes. No longer do I take regular things I enjoy for granted. The pandemic has affected us all one way or another. We have learned how precious friends and family are, and how health is vastly more important than wealth. 

If you have never been to the Cambridge Farmers' Market, give it a try on Saturday, located at Ainslie and Dickson, it’s a great place to visit while supporting the local economy.